[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
January 2003

 

Silent Running or granite or...?

January 30, 2003

Editor,

I really enjoy your writing, as your reviews reveal a lot of good information. About the Silent Running stands, though, isn't this sort of a needless luxury, especially for low-budget-confined folks like me? Could I not simply take a heavy square of level granite and accomplish the same thing?

Ken Sternberg

Yes, the Silent Running products that I reviewed are pricey, especially if you're building a budget system, but their custom-made nature accounts for a good deal of this cost. They did improve the sound of my electronics, as I noted in the review. Will a slab of granite work as well? I can't say because I've never experimented with one. Some audiophile do use them, however.

As an alternative, I can highly recommend Bright Star Audio products, which are effective and cost less than the Silent Running bases I reviewed. I use them and like what they do, especially with an inexpensive Sony DVD/SACD player I have....Marc Mickelson


OMNI reviews?

January 29, 2003

Editor,

I'm interested in the new Mirage Omni speakers, especially the OMNI 60 bookshelf speakers. Any reviews coming?

Rob Clegg

We have reviews of the new OMNI speakers in the works, so stay tuned....Marc Mickelson


Measurements

January 28, 2003

To Doug Schneider,

I was pleased to see that SoundStage! uses the NRC facilities for speaker testing (and also that Bascom King measures some amplifiers). I had long seen the results of NRC testing in reviews in the old AudioScene Canada. I consider purely subjective reviews to be much less useful than those which provide measurements.

My question is, how is it determined which speakers are measured at the NRC and which are not?

Pat Daley

We agree 100% with you that subjective reviews with measurements are far more valuable than those without. And we would like to test all of the speakers we review, but we simply cannot. As for what gets tested versus what does not, the answer comes down to logistics and cost. As you know, the NRC is located in Canada. Oftentimes, depending where the product has been made, it can be very difficult getting it shipped across borders and then back again. Other times it can be purely a cost issue -- both in terms of the money to actually produce the measurements (we budget for a certain number of speakers per year and go from there), and also the often not-so-insignificant cost of shipping very large speakers up to the NRC. In short, it costs a lot to do what we're doing.

And this brings me to my final point: In my opinion magazines that eschew measurements with some sort of idea that they don't matter are full of it. The truth is that they can't do them, can't afford to do them, or if they can afford to do them they would rather pocket the cost than go through the trouble and expense of doing them properly (that final word is very important). All they do, though, is shortchange their readers. We've been producing industry-leading measurements for about three years now -- even doing them when we were a fledgling publication and barely able to afford the cost. We will continue to do them -- and more if circumstances allow....Doug Schneider


Publishing schedule

January 27, 2003

Editor,

I was just wondering if you are changing your online publishing dates. Ever since I noticed that you were going to review the new Bel Canto eVo2i integrated, I have been dutifully checking back in on the 1st and 15th of every month, since that seemed to be your regular publishing dates. Alas, you have not published anything on January 15th. Are you only going to publish reviews on the the 1st of every month now or will it be at irregular periods? I am just curious, because I enjoy your interesting, entertaining, and informative reviews very, very much. You are one of the first stops I make every time I log on with audio in mind. Thanks for providing such a valuable resource to the online audiophile community and good luck with your continued success.

Brian Williams

Our publishing dates have remained the same since our inception -- 1st and 15th. On January 15 we publish a review only if we are able to get one ready following CES, which takes all of our resources. If we can't get a review ready, no review appears. By the way, the Bel Canto review should appear on March 1....Marc Mickelson


Speakers for home theater

January 23, 2003

To Doug Schneider,

I wondered if you could recommend bookshelf front speakers to go with a Pioneer Elite VSX-49TXi receiver. My main limitation is that the width of the speaker cannot exceed 8 1/2". Also, I'm looking for good music and movie sound-effects reproduction. The price for the pair should not go above $1500 or so. Thank you for your time!

Jorge Grilo

While you don't have to spend $1500 on bookshelf speakers to get great sound -- Axiom, Energy, Paradigm and Polk all make great bookshelf-sized speakers for less -- if you want to spend that amount, I can't recommend Amphion's argon2 speaker highly enough. The speaker not only received a Reviewers' Choice designation, it received our year-end award for Best Product Debut. Even cranked up to 95dB in our anechoic chamber, the speaker exhibited very low distortion, making it suitable for demanding applications like home theater. And according to the specs on Amphion's website, it measures less than 8" across....Doug Schneider


Universal audio players

January 20, 2003

To Jeff Fritz,

I've been looking for an article along the lines of your "Roundup of Universal Audio Players" for ages and was overjoyed when I found it. Thanks for your article. If you have a spare minute, I'd really appreciate your thoughts on my questions below.

I am currently shopping around for a new player and have been attracted to these universal players due to the format flexibility they offer (although I favor DVD-A over SACD if forced to choose). The Marantz DV8300 is my preferred option at the moment. However, its current RRP in Australia is about $1500 USD. I'm hoping that this price will fall as more competitive offerings appear -- do you think there will be a great number of new players on the market in the coming six months?

More specifically, I'd like to buy a Rotel player, but their current model RDV1080 does not play CD-R or MP3s, which I consider mandatory. It's been some time since Rotel released a DVD player. Do you know if they have any plans for a universal player or where I could source this information?

Many thanks,

Gavin Buddis

Thanks for the kind words. I think you'll see more universal audio players hit the market this year. Denon just released a reasonably priced player and higher-end units have been introduced by companies such as Linn. It's a trend that will likely continue because it doesn't force consumers to choose -- and that's a comfortable place to be if you ask me. Regarding Rotel, I'm not sure what their plans are for a universal player, but it wouldn't surprise me if they jumped onboard at some point. Ask your local Rotel dealer what he/she has heard or call the manufacturer directly and fish for some information. I'm sure they'd rather their loyal customers wait for their player if it is forthcoming....Jeff Fritz


Energy or Axiom?

January 16, 2003

To Doug Schneider,

I just wanted to thank you for your great reviews in SoundStage!. They are always informative and fun to read.

I have been in the market for a new pair of speakers for a small studio that I have in my house and was originally thinking about the Paradigm Monitor 3 speakers, but I recently read your review on the Energy Connoisseur C-3 Loudspeakers and I am now debating again. To add to the debate, I have read your review on the Axiom speakers! I realize that listening is the best way to decide, but I haven't found a local store that carries both brands to A/B them. I also read your review of the Axiom Audio M2i loudspeakers, which you also loved. I was wondering if you could give me a feel for which you would buy if given the choice. I realize the Axiom M22Ti SE is probably the more similar in the Axiom line. I guess what I am asking for help with is -- all things being equal, price, looks, etc. -- which do you find to be the most pleasing to listen to and the most even top to bottom? Just to give you a feel for what I normally listen to in my living room, I have a Conrad-Johnson MV52, C-J PV10 and B&W Matrix 1 speakers (which I find a bit harsh on the top end and which are getting a bit old at this point). I would greatly appreciate any help you could give me.

K. Kern

Interestingly enough, I used to own B&W Matrix 1s speakers, but that was back in about 1986, so perhaps it is a good time for an upgrade. I have not heard the Paradigm Monitor 3, so I don't have an opinion there. In terms of the Axiom M2i, Axiom M22Ti SE, and Energy C-3, they are all very neutral-sounding. Sonically, they all have more in common than they have differences. That said, the M2i has substantially less bass extension and overall output capability than the other two -- not surprising, because it has the smallest cabinet, smallest woofer (although the M22Ti SE has the same size woofer, it has two of them), and at $255 per pair costs about half the price of the C-3. Its strength are not bass or output capability but rather top-to-bottom neutrality within its range (from about 80Hz on up) at what is a ridiculously low price for such an accurate speaker. But, if your budget allows and you have the space to accommodate the bigger size of M22Ti SE and C-3 speakers, those are undoubtedly "better" in terms of more bass and overall output capability, and I would look to them. I can tell you that I have heard both, and I feel they are both outstanding values (they've both received our Reviewers' Choice nod). But, I've never squared them off side by side.

The best that I can say is that if you are serious about your audio, make sure both are on your audition. So, in order for you to decide what's better for you, you are going to have to listen to them. Energy has an enormous number of dealers; Axiom has some dealers, but also sells factory direct with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. Do what you can to audition these speakers and then please write back. We would like to hear your impressions....Doug Schneider


Still Seeking Sony

January 15, 2003

To Jeff Fritz,

Just ran across your September "Surrounded" article on the multichannel preamp, and that is exactly what I want. But it is impossible to find one at a reasonable price. I had my heart set on the Sony TA-P9000ES, but it seems to be no longer available anywhere. What gives? I can relate to all the points you made regarding comfort level and being able to use all the fine equipment I already have. But I am stuck in not being able to find a preamp. Please help!

Peter Johngren

I wish I could help, Peter, but my response below to another reader pretty much sums it up. It seems what the world needs is a sub-$1000 multichannel preamp. I'm on the hunt, but have yet to come up with anything at that price point....Jeff Fritz


Which Energy speaker?

January 14, 2003

To Doug Schneider,

I would just like to say that your review of the Energy C-3s was very informative. I also would like to ask some questions about them. By any chance would you know if the C-3s would pair well with the Kenwood 6070 receiver at 100Wpc? I value high-quality sound, and I also would want to know if these speakers would be overkill for a room that is approximately 12' x 13' in size (also 8' in height.)

I am torn between Energy Take 5.2s and buying Energy C-3s or C-1s with the Connoisseur surrounds. (I want C-3s more because of less dependency on a sub.) Any help would be appreciated.

Chris Ramirez

Although I like Energy's Take 5.2 system, I believe that their new Connoisseur series offers better sound. And as you might know, the Energy C-3s received not only a Reviewers' Choice designation, but also the year 2002 SoundStage! Budget Leader award too. It's an outstanding loudspeaker, and I recommend it highly. Although you could probably get away with the C-1s in your room, the bigger C-3s certainly would not be overkill, and because you don't want to use a sub, they would also give you more bass....Doug Schneider


Discontinued Sony

January 7, 2003

To Jeff Fritz,

I have been looking for a simple yet high-quality preamp with six-channel capabilities. The Sony TA-P9000ES is exactly what I need, as I can still use my current preamp. However, Sony has now discontinued this product. I was hoping you could steer me to anyone that still has this product in inventory. Everyone I have contacted is out of product. The September "Surrounded" article was very helpful as well. Thanks for any help you can give.

Paul Calvin

I had a feeling that Sony would discontinue that model. It was actually designed as an add-on to their home-theater processor, which lacked six-channel inputs (making it incompatible with their own SACD format). At a list price of $750, and with the build quality it exhibited, it was only a matter of time before Sony realized they were giving the unit away. I can't really offer any advice on where to purchase one, other than to say get on the Internet and start calling around. Perhaps you can find some old stock somewhere. Good luck, and if you find a stash, let us know so we can pass it along to others who are looking for one....Jeff Fritz


Elac review?

January 6, 2003

To Doug Schneider,

I've always love your reviews on bookshelf speakers, which have provided me a good yardstick to audition the speakers.

Recently, I saw some high-tech looking Elac speakers with ribbon tweeters and aluminum woofers. The 5 Series looks great and I'm wondering if there will be a future review on them.

Andrew Rikker

At this time, we do not have any Elac speakers in our review queue. The speakers, though, do look very interesting. Since CES 2003 is fast approaching, we'll likely get a chance to talk to the company there, and we'll see what we can line up for later this year....Doug Schneider


AES/EBU cable

January 4, 2003

Editor,

I've read your review on the DH Labs D-110 with great interest. I am looking for an AES/EBU digital cable to hook up between a CEC TL5100 transport and Perpetual Technologies P-1A. I have an Illuminations D-60 at the moment, but I have always been told that both CEC and PT work best with AES/EBU.

Hence, I'm wondering how the D-110 would compare with the D-60. If they are comparable, it is saying a lot for the D-110 as it costs so much less than the D-60, but that would means I would have to look elsewhere.

I hope that you would have the opportunity (and dare I say pleasure) of being able to compare both and give me an honest opinion on it. In a separate forum, I was told that I should give the Audience 24 and Jena Labs digital cable a try. However, they are pretty expensive (the D-60 is the most expensive cable I have gotten thus far).

Harry Tan

DH Labs makes truly fine digital cables, and I would not hesitate to buy a D-110. I own one and consider it my reference AES/EBU cable -- even at its reasonable price. I haven't heard the Illuminations D-60, but Chris Sommovigo, who designed it, has produced the new i2digital.com X-60, which is a very good coaxial cable. Which of the cables I mention would I choose? Depends on the connection I wanted or needed to use....Marc Mickelson


Positioning Polks

January 3, 2003

To Doug Schneider,

I just purchased a pair of the Polk Audio LSi9s mainly on your word that I would be pleased with them. And I am. I am having a little difficulty trying to stabilize the center image on them, however. I currently have them at the Polk-recommended equilateral triangle configuration. In my case, this is 132" from one another and of course from each speaker to the sweet spot in my room. I am driving these with a Rotel RA-971 amplifier. What distance did you set these apart from one another in relation to the sweet spot to get the center imaging you described as "..center image is amazingly solid, and voices have absolutely realistic size, as they should but often don't. The width and depth of stage that these speakers create are outstanding too. I actually ended up spreading the speakers out more than usual and still achieved a rock-solid center image..."? I just cannot get them there.

Thanks for your help!

Randy Diddel

Good imaging has as much, if not more, to do with the setup in the room as it does the speakers. But wait -- I told you the LSi9s imaged great with a very solid center image? Did I just contradict myself? No. Providing setup and room are good, I found that the LSi9s produced a more solid center image in my room than the majority of speakers. So what could be affecting your speakers? First, check to make sure the leads for your right and left channels are all in-phase. If one channel is out of phase with the other you will never achieve a center image. Second, let's look around your room. Generally, to get good imaging you need a symmetrical setup (i.e., the same kind of walls to both sides of the speakers, similar kinds of furniture, etc.). In an extreme case where you have a wall on one side and not on the other, you can use your balance control to achieve a center image, but I also find this sounds odd and not cohesive. Try to get everything symmetrical, and if you have to, get really creative -- I've seen people use corners or other areas when the room is oddly shaped. Third, let's look at the speaker setup. The equilateral triangle you mention is often good. I sometimes use that, but oftentimes I sit a closer distance to the speaker plane than the speaker are spaced apart -- as I did with the LSi9s. There are other factors though. Side-wall reflections (especially in non-symmetrical setups) can wreak havoc on imaging. The sound isn't just coming from your speakers directly to you; the sound is getting dispersed over a 360-degree area and reflecting to you from all around. This is why you'll almost always read in my reviews that I pull speakers very fall from wall boundaries -- it does not eliminate the room boundaries, but it does help to limit them. In general, I like to have at least three feet from the speaker to the side wall (preferably more) and at least five feet behind. If that's not possible, you can try things like wall treatments to damp the walls. Finally, play with toe-in and toe-out. In general, turning the speakers so the tweeter fires more directly at you (toeing-in) results in a more specific center image....Doug Schneider

 

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